Sleeping Beauty knows importance of rest for runners, you should, too. The significance of REST days for runners, or any athlete is real! We’d never dream of heading to work on one-two hours of sleep. An all-nighter (or close to it) negatively affects our mood, attention level, and “performance” throughout the day. The same principle applies to skipping rest days for athletic training, although the effects are not as obvious initially.
“Rest is not a four-letter word to be ignored.” ~ Kevin Vincent M.D.,Ph.D.
The importance of rest days for runners (and all athletes) ranks high because it allows the body to REPAIR and STRENGTHEN itself between workouts. Skip this, and increase the chance of injury, stress fracture, burn–out, and a missed goal you’ve worked so hard to achieve.
Rest Day BENEFITS?
- The body adapts to the stress associated with exercise.
- Body tissue repairs itself (muscle, tendon, bone). For example, with muscle, exercise causes microscopic tears. Rest provides the time needed to both grow and repair the respective tissue.
- Provides a mental break. Rest allows you to come back reinvigorated and with sharper focus.
- Allows time to try something different, or spend time with family and friends. Face it, diligent exercise enthusiasts often prioritize their workout over other interests (which may include family/friends). Down time allows opportunity to reconnect. Read further on how I learned that the hard way.
- Ensures hormone levels (especially cortisol) stay in balance. Our body releases cortisol in response to stress, and that includes exercise/running. Without sufficient rest, too much of it pumping in the veins causes irritability, sleep problems and mood issues. We are NOT exercising to achieve those issues!
Unwind – What are Options?
If you’re a runner, don’t run! Not even an “easy” run. This also is not the day to cross train. If possible, attempt to take the day off completely. If you’re like me (Type “A”), that may be tough. Some rest day options are below, and may be welcome especially if you neglect them on the days you work out.
Essential Rest Day – How Often?
It is a bit of art and science, but for more experienced runners/athletes, a rest day each week (up to 10 days) usually is sufficient. However, for less experienced runner/athletes, or those that are injury prone, two days a week may be a better option.
Granted, other times the significance of rest weighs heavier: during/post injury, when sick, after a race, when on vacation, and during high times of stress. If in doubt, opt for a rest day. Better to be slightly undertrained vs. injured, over-trained or sick. Those set-backs can leave you much further behind than opting for a rest day. Happy Trails!
“As much as athletes focus on their volume of training and the speed at which they do workouts, what they do outside of running is equally important to becoming stronger and more resilient in the future” Adam Tenforde, M.D., assistant professor of Physical Medicine and Rehab at Harvard University, former Stanford All-American distance runner.